Monday, April 21, 2014


I had an email today from a reader.  Appears that there is some difficulty positioning the stop washer on the Kenmore 158.1040.  Despite numerous trials and errors, still no success.

I recently sewed with my lovely little Keatherweight.  I know that my stop washer is installed correctly.  In the interest of stop washer problems everywhere I post these photos.

Loosen the set screw.  On Singers this doesn't have to come all the way out.  This one did. 
Turn the outer part of the hand wheel to remove it. 
Stop washer position.  The tabs are positioned OUT.  Thus, when the little set screw is tightened down and one turns the outside of the hand wheel to release the clutch and allow for bobbin winding, it will catch on a tab.  If improperly positioned, it won't turn far enough to allow the free spinning of the motor and will still run the machine. There are two choices.  If one doesn't work, turn the stop washer 180 degrees the opposite way and it should work.   I have found that if the shaft is dirty and if the center of the hand wheel is dirty and gunked with old oil, no matter the position, it will still turn.  So clean it up good.  Hope this helps, Kevin.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


The very first vintage sewing machine that I bought, came home in its cabinet.  I just hoisted the whole kit n kaboodle into the back of the van.  I was unaware that the head could easily pop out of the cabinet.  Such activity damaged the cabinet.  I have repaired it but I sure do wish I had known about this in the first place. 
I may have covered this in a previous post but nothing pops up when I search.  I  am not in the mood to scroll through all of my posts so I am providing the information here, again or for the first time.

I am a member of the FB group Vintage Sewing Machines.  There, someone inquired about removing the head of the machine from a cabinet.  I took pictures of the set screws on the  Monty Ward HA-1 I just serviced.  The concept is the same for a cabinet machine.  If there is wiring attaching machine  to the cabinet that wiring will also have to be removed from the machine.  This photo shows the basic concept of set screws in the machine that hold the hinge pins tight.  Tip the machine back, out of the case or the cabinet.  A good flash light helps a whole lot.  Identify the screws in the back of the base of the machine.  Circled in the photo below. 

Loosen the set screws just enough to release the pin.  Don't lose the set screw.  If you do, you can get them from one of the suppliers, or me.  I have some.  Singer set screws are likely proprietary.  I think Singer machined their own screws.  Just to screw us.  (More management training)
When you place the machine back in the case or cabinet, use a rubber band to hold the hinge pins up.  This will allow you to line up the hinge pins with the holes more easily.  Be sure to tighten the set screws completely so that the machine is secure.


We took in this adorable Montgomery Ward Class 15 (AKA HA-1) a couple of weeks ago.   This was the only thing on my list for today.  Which was probably a good thing since it took me all day to finish servicing this machine.  It was dry dry dry.  Which is probably better than wet; as in oily wet or rusty wet.

The wires to the motor were shot and I do not like to re-wire universal motors.  It is more efficient to replace the motor. Or so I thought.    First I had to find a motor.  I found a nice, used motor, quiet and smooth.  BUT it didn't really fit.  I couldn't take off the mounting bracket easily to make it fit, either.  The motor sat right against the back of the pillar.  That wouldn't do, not at all.

I found an older motor with a removable bracket and was able to use it.  I had to use the bracket that came with this machine, though, because the mounting screw was too wide to fit through the mounting bracket that came with the "new" used motor.

Spatial relationships challenge me. I looked at the belt as it came off of the handwheel and went around the motor pulley.    It was off.  Not off as much as the sag on Falling Water (Frank Lloyd Wright's famous house southeast of Pittsburgh.  Holy Cow.  I did not notice that the first time I was there.  The tour guide advised that it is off by 7 inches. (TWSS)

 I looked for a different motor, to see if I could find a better fit.  No go.  So then I decided to adjust the mounting bracket on the motor and just use one screw to fasten the bracket to the motor. .  I moved the bracket in the direction I THOUGHT would work.  That made it worse.  Well, good!  All I had to do was move the stupid bracket the opposite way.  I did and it fit. (Note how I blame the bracket for my stupidity. I am training for a management position).

The belt that came with the machine wasn't the greatest.  It was one of those rubber band type of belts.  A bit thick and a bit big.    In an effort to keep costs low for the owner, I decided to just go with it.  Until I sewed with the machine.  Then I just couldn't stand it.  I put on a black lug belt.  Nice, a bit noisier, but at least it doesn't slip when you sew.

 This machine comes in a "portable case" with a motor block; power cord and foot controller attached to the case.  The wiring to the light was good and I took off the block and checked it out too.  Seemed ok.  Now when you have this situation, the cords from the light and the motor pass through a small hole in the back of the machine to avoid getting crimped by the machine bed.   Here you can see the hole but not the rubber grommet.  You can also see the condition of the original motor wires.  EEEEKKKKK!!!!!

 I had cut the bad wires so it was easy to get the old motor off.  In order to put the "new used" motor wires through this hole, I had to re-wire the plug.  It was an old fashioned plug, the kind that you just wind the wire around the connections and tighten the screw   The most challenging part was getting the "new used" wire through the stress relief grommet that fits into the hole on the bed of the machine.  Thank you KY jelly.

The actual mechanical servicing went quite easily.  A bit of Tri-flow and some heat was all it took, really.  Oh, and I did re-glue the base of the case in a couple of places.  I just had to.

She looks pretty good. I put on a new BW tire and shined her all up.  She sews nicely. Feed dogs drop readily for FMQ or darning.   No problems going through multiple layers but I would not call it an Industrial Strength.  Treadle worthy as well. 
I am not in love with this machine, which is a good thing since it belongs to someone else.  Perhaps there is hope for me yet.  Oh I forgot.  I have this machine, only in a different color.

If you have a similar machine, and they were produced in Japan by the millions, you can find a copy of a generic manual here:

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Go to this link to read about different qualities of various threads.  This makes sense.  I will be shopping for Mettler.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mickey and Disappearing Nine Patch

I went over to the QuiltZoo this afternoon.  Nina and Bonnie encourage us to come and hang out on Fridays so that we can sew and commune.  I haven't had a chance to get there much.  Today I was determined to do so.

I vacuumed 5 months worth of crud out of the front of the red Jetta this morning and then gathered up some fabric, a machine and some sewing notions and headed over.

When I got there, Barb was having tension issues with her Singer.  She had given up on Mickey, her brother embroidery machine.  It seems that when she was vacuuming that morning, the thread from Mickey got caught in the vacuum and before Barb noticed, all of the thread was unwound from the spool and wound onto the beater bar of her vacuum.  This activity bent the needle and rendered the machine useless even though Barb changed the needle, and rethreaded top and bottom.

We figured out that the Singer tension problem was using a class 15 bobbin in an Apollo bobbin case (class 66 bobbins).  She began, happily, sewing on her quilt binding .  I tried my hand at Mickey. Trusting that what I had been told was true,(new needle, new thread top and bobbin)  I took off the needle plate and tried to figure out what was wrong.  I could not.  The machine would pick up one stitch but would not sew after that . AT ALL.

I looked at the top threading.  It was impossible to figure out.  I saw a bobbin in there(not pictured) and asked:

"Did you re-thread the top, when you changed the needle?"  I asked. 

"Yes, we did." Barb admitted to using a bobbin, not a spool of thread on top.  WTHK if that makes a difference. 

 I suggested that we use a real spool of thread.

That whole gizmo comes out.  Really.  What you see under that plastic is a cartridge of sorts.  You wind the thread through its path and then, with the machine turned on, gently place the whole thing back into the machine and it automatically threads the needle. 

It worked. 

That will be fifty bucks, Ma'am.

 I wasn't surprised that the machine wasn't stitching when I saw the condition of the bobbin she was using on top.   It was loosely wound and very uneven.  I bet that automatic threading mechanism was confused and just doing the best it possibly could.

So I was finally able to sew.  I had taken along my Keatherweight (I love that machine) and some pre-cut squares.  I wanted to construct a nine patch block and show Barb how to make it disappear.

First make a nine patch block.   Then cut it in half one way and then the other to make four smaller blocks.  I used a Jewel pack that has been kicking around for ever.  I didn't really like this combination.

The fun begins once you have the smaller blocks.  There are many possible arrangements.

Sorry about the lousy iPhone photos.  But you get the idea.

I finished piecing a D9P (Disappearing9patch) on Wednesday.  I used a lovely, 1938 201.  I love that machine too.

I strip pieced these blocks and got confused in the process.  There are 16 original blocks.   I had intended to piece all 16 identically but made a mistake and ended up with 8 each of two different combinations.  It worked out OK, though.  I love this fabric.  Yes, some would prefer that the peacocks and other birds were all oriented in the same direction.  I don't mind.  The vibrant colors make up for that error.

My goal is to finish this and quilt it on the frame with the mid arm Baily Home Quilter.  Lofty goals. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Kenmore and a Montgomery Ward

It snowed again today right after I gave Frannie her hair cut.  It didn't last long.  The sun tried to come out but the clouds kept beating it back.  The dogs and I went for a walk just as a little bit of sunshine peaked through the clouds.   I neglected to wear gloves; the triumph of hope over experience.  My hands were cold and I cut the walk short.  The dogs didn't mind the wind, the snow or the cold.   The ground was bare and a winter's worth of deer and rabbit poop awaited them.  YUM.

I burned up almost the last of the shop fire wood today.  Betsy came over and we each worked on a machine.  She had a Kenmore (darn, she always gets the Kenmores!) and I pulled out a Montgomery Ward Free arm I have been itching to service for years.  Yes, years.  I bought this machine in 2012 at the same time that I bought a Singer 301 Long bed.  I remember the day.  Steven and I drove to Albany to fetch the 301.  The seller brought out the Montgomery Ward too.  I looked at it, saw that it was a free arm and brought it home.

Since then I have been wanting to get it on the bench.  Instead I kept moving it around the shop.  Someone built a very nice, custom, plywood case for it. The case weighs almost as much as the machine. 

 The machine is all metal, save the hand wheel and some of the knobs.  The camstack is metal.  It was kind of gummed up but a little bit of Tri Flow got it going.

The shuttle gears look miniature to me.  At least compared to Kenmores
The extension table is solid and metal.  It fits into the bed of the machine in three places.  I think it is more secure that the extension tables on the Taiwanese made Kenmores of the late 70s. 

Oh Boy.  I love this machine. Twin Needle capability.  Four stretch stitches, two decorative stitches, straight stitch and zig zag.  You could even put the needle in left position if wanted.  PLUS a very nice, functional built in button hole stitch.  All of the stitches work beautifully.  Comes with some attachments and the manual.  Sweet Machine.  I wonder who made Montgomery Ward machines?  Janome? 

UPDATE. 4/6/14
  Betsy found this information on another blog.

 Yesterday I picked up the Kenmore to service for a customer.  Actually I picked up two machines.  The Kenmore and a Montgomery Ward Straight Stitch HA-1 Class 15.  Unfortunately the wiring on the 15 is a MESS and I put it aside until we could talk to the owner.  It is definitely worth fixing.  It is a lovely machine.

The Kenmore is a 385.  It isn't a clamshell but it isn't metal, either.  It was pretty dirty, gummed up and reverse didn't work.

It is a class 15 machine too; a drop in bobbin.  The bobbin case was loose in the race when Betsy opened up the machine.  I have no idea how she got it working, but she managed to free up the reverse mechanism and we put it through every stitch.  It sews pretty nicely, we have to admit.  We figure the more experience we get with these kinds of machines, the better off we are.  These machines will probably show up in our shop. We'd best know how to fix 'em.

Just the same  I would hate to have to take this mechanism apart.  This is the base of the free arm.

I don't really like the way the stitch selector works on this machine.  It feels chintzy to me.  But I must admit that the recommendations for stitch length, width and presser foot type are useful.

I admit that it made a decent stitch.   For people who want a lot of bells and whistles, it is likely an ok machine, for the time being.  Not for the long haul.  Even my latest love, Ward, likely won't still be stitching in 2084.   I betcha the 1938 Singer 201 will be.  If the motor lasts that long.  I don't see why it wouldn't.     

Friday, April 4, 2014


Check out the bobbin winder on this White 221K
OK  I will make it easier for you
Now I admit, it is an innovative design.  The only problem?  It doesn't seem to work.  I have a replacement for it and the broken motor pulley.  Tomorrow, transformation will take place and I hope to get this little guy stitching again.

A friend and reader (Thank you Betty)  sent me some information from another blog about the drive belt on these machines.  Without permission, I am posting it here:

Unfortunately when I click on the link above, Dave McCallum's Blog, nothing shows up.  So, here is what was sent to me:

 What about the "white" Featherweight?

Monday, Nov 21 2011 10:39 PM | All kinds of other stuff, Featherweight 221

    The white machine is not the same as the black or tan machines.
    How so?
    The white machines body is made cast from the same aluminium alloy as the black and tan machines although the lifting bed extension is made of stamped sheet steel. This was but one production cost savings utilized by Singer so that they could keep producing a machine that had been getting too expensive to keep manufacturing and sell at a price that people would still afford.
     The power cord does not unplug from the base of the machine as the earlier black Featherweights do which was another production cost savings. I prefer a machine that the electrical cord can be unplugged from for storage or carrying about. It really is not the end of the world for me but simply a personal preference.
    The steel base extension works quite well and is strong. This base extension on the white machine is about an inch and a half shorter than the cast aluminum extension found on all black and tan machines. To some this might seem important but actually it doesn't change things much in use.
    The most notable difference and the greatest money saver for Singer was to be found internal to the machine. The black and tan machines are all gear driven, but the design change to the white machine utilizes a cogged drive belt. This had quite the effect on the bottom line.
    How does the cogged belt effect the white machine when compared to the gear driven black and tan machines? The internal belt drive (rather than gears) has proven to be very reliable and it typically runs quieter than its black and tan siblings. I have talked with Graham Forsdyke and Glenn Williams about their experience with the belt drive and they concur with what has been my experience, there is no problem with the cogged belt drive. Although Graham had seen one fail when a person was "adjusting" the belt with his pocket knife. Obviously, this is a design flaw.
    In the 1950s, type-writers were cleaned by immersing them in a chemical bath not unlike the early dry cleaning chemicals. Type writers were soaked, shaken while immersed and dried. Then they were oiled again. Sewing machine service people tried this immersion in cleaning chemicals with Featherweights and found that it worked very well with the black and tan machines. In the 60's the white machine came about and the "sewing machine service people" put the white machine into the chemical bath and the internal drive belt melted in the harsh chemicals used for dry-cleaning back then. The service person had a three hour job ahead of them to remove the internal shafts and replace the cogged belt.The cure for this was that the service people told prospective buyers that "the white machine was not as good as the black machine, believe me I'm a service person and I know". If you are around white Featherweights long enough you will hear people say that "they had a Friend who said she heard that the white machine was not as good as the others. And now you know why. Telling this to prospective buyers kept the service people from getting their fingers dirty by having to clean a machine by hand rather than giving it a bath while they drank coffee. This is a "story" that you can take to the bank. I have talked with "old-timers" (which I am rapidly becoming) who have stated this is the truth.
    I have had to replace the gears in machines before, but never a cogged belt. In my experience the white machine (which isn't white, it is "pale celery" according to Singer) is every bit as good as any other color and I think it can be adjusted to sew marginally better than a well adjusted black or tan machine. I believe it runs smoother internally which in my opinion gives the machine its edge.
    I will not go so far as to say the white machine is better than the others, but it is not a compromised design as had been implied by Singer's own and definitely is not second place to any other.
Dave McCallum